Democratic Republic of Congo will begin renegotiating some 60 mining contracts in mid-July as part of a long-delayed review process, the central African nation's deputy mines minister said on Thursday.
We plan to start the renegotiation process in mid-July. And we hope it will go faster. Everyone wants to finish this, Victor Kasongo told Reuters. The renegotiations would be carried out by a mines review task force of senior ministers.
President Joseph Kabila's government launched a review last year of 61 mining contracts, many signed during the country's 1998-2003 war.
A government mines review panel released a report in March recommending the renegotiation of a string of major mining contracts in the vast former Belgian colony.
This included contracts between state mining companies and mining majors BHP Billiton
Kasongo said the task force, established after the publication of the review panel's report, met for the first time on Wednesday and was seeking legal and technical assistance from foreign auditing firms.
However, he said the government was still raising the funds needed to proceed with the renegotiation. Many small companies still owe money to the state. We're calling for them to pay that money, which we will use to pay the (auditing) firms, Kasongo said.
Interest in Congo's once mighty mining sector, which has a tenth of the world's copper reserves and a third of its cobalt, has boomed since 2006 elections, meant to draw a line under years of conflict and decades of mismanagement.
However, watchdog groups have criticised it for a perceived lack of transparency. Many, including the governor of Katanga province, Congo's mining heartland, say repeated delays hindered development in the sector and deterred investors.
Kasongo did not say how long he expected the renegotiation to last. (Editing by Daniel Flynn and Peter Blackburn)
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